The attention of President Obama has refocused upon “getting America working
again” with his American Jobs Act proposals which Republicans have responded to
in ways far too reminiscent of when debt ceiling discussions commenced. As one
editorial stated – “The Republican response has thus far been measured, although
mixed. The GOP remains eager to work together with the president to support job
growth, but laments that these proposals would hurt economic growth. It dislikes
new spending on roads, teachers and schools.” So, with the GOP message being
only a slightly more polite form of “no” than was expressed earlier this year,
expect a stand-off with little being accomplished by our federal government
between now and November 2012, except for offering us a “false choice between
jobs and pollution.”
Recently The Economist cover, “The Quest for Jobs,” and its special report,
“The Future of Jobs,” suggested that America and Europe may be facing a lost
generation. Among its proposed remedies are “government lending a hand” and
acknowledgement that “work needs to be fair as well as efficient.” We can hope
that The Economist is still read by some Republicans in Washington, D.C.
However, it would seem that unless it’s approved Fox fare that’s unlikely.
Fiction writers, such as John Steinbeck with “The Grapes of Wrath” often best
depict distress, capturing characters resignation and resilience. “Last Night
at the Lobster” by Stewart O’Nan was published in 2007, before our Great
Recession officially commenced, yet this compelling story of a restaurant closing
and how its employees coped with that loss was prescient of what would soon
occur for many more of us.
A fine fiction writer can often tell true tales better than most journalists.
Ann Patchett does so with “What Now?” An extended version of a college
commencement address she made several years ago, it challenges the reader to
consider many possibilities even when uncomfortable doing so. “I learned as
much from waitressing as I did from teaching….I hadn’t planned on winding up
as a waitress, but the truth is there was a lot about the job I liked even if I
didn’t think I’d do it forever. I spent my days with good people who were
hardworking and resilient. They took their tough times in stride and managed to
dream big dreams in between salads and desserts.”
As someone who also started working in food service, this memoir
stirred memories long-forgotten. Hard work and resilience with a good education
can lead to meaningful employment. Government can help provide us an education
and the societal structures foundational for unleashing our hard-working energy.
Resilience requires internal fortitude which government can’t provide, but it
can test as we have been faced far too often during this century with it failing
to reach its promised potential.